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ASEAN: Regional Human Rights Body for Southeast Asia

(July 31, 2009) A new institution devoted to human rights in southeast Asia has been endorsed by the foreign ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). The ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights will be established in October 2009. Speaking on July 22, 2009, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, described the creation of the new organization as an “important step forward” for the protection of the rights of the people of the region and stated that “independent and impartial” experts should be appointed to serve on the Commission. Pillay also suggested that the national selection processes to find the appropriate people to serve should include “wide consultation and participation by various actors in society.” She referred to existing, effective national human rights institutions in some of the ASEAN nations, which should be able to help the Commission. (New Regional Body Will Help Protect Human Rights in South-East Asia – UN Official, UN NEWS CENTRE, July 22, 2009, available at

Pillay noted some shortcomings in the work on the Commission to date, stating that it lacked a clear mandate to protect, but hoped that the mission of the body would become more complete after it begins operations. The formal launch will be at the 15th ASEAN Summit, in Phuket, Thailand. (Id.)

The Working Group for an ASEAN Human Rights Mechanism, a coalition of national working groups composed of representatives of government institutions, parliamentary human rights committees, academia, and nongovernmental organizations from countries in the region, has been working for the establishment of the Commission for many years and submitted a “Draft Agreement on the Establishment of the ASEAN Human Rights Commission” to ASEAN leaders in 2000. (Working Group for an ASEAN Human Rights Mechanism website,; for the text see (both last visited July 30, 2009).)